Geoff Eales Mountains of Fire
Since the original notes to ‘Mountains of Fire’ were written thirteen years ago, a great sea-change has taken place in my musical life. From the time I left my native South Wales in 1977 for the buzz and excitement of London until I recorded ‘Mountains’ in 1998, my work could be best described as follows: studio musician, accompanist to the ‘stars’ and part-time jazz musician. The whole dynamic changed post-1998. I became less and less interested in playing second fiddle to others and more and more concerned with carving a career for myself as an artist in my own right. Also, jazz had been on the back-burner for a very long time and I felt that it was high time that it occupied centre-stage. After all, it was the music that meant so much to me in my youth. ‘Mountains’ was warmly received by both public and jazz press alike and this further inspired me to dig deeper into my jazz soul.
The last thirteen years of intensive touring and recording have been hugely rewarding. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many wonderful people throughout America, Europe and Asia, and it is always a thrill to go into the studio with a brand new project. I feel that I am on an incredible journey, one that would never have begun if it wasn’t for my decision to record ‘Mountains of Fire’.
Finally, I would like to say how delighted I am that Nimbus have re-issued my debut CD - it’s the album that changed my life.
Enjoy! Geoff Eales, 2011
“Inspired, inventive—there is little more to say about this great CD except BUY IT!” John Critchinson, The Musician
“An absolute delight for anyone who appreciates good standards imaginatively treated” Dave Gelly, The Observer
The Nimbus Company deserves our thanks for reissuing this album, which was Geoff Eales' first jazz CD. Geoff wasn't exactly a "new kid on the block", as he had been playing professionally for years, describing himself as "studio musician, accompanist to the 'stars' and part-time jazz musician". He worked with such well-known performers as Julie Andrews, Petula Clark, Shirley Bassey and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. However, in 1998 he decided that he ought to concentrate on "carving a career for myself as an artist in my own right" - as a jazz pianist. He formed a trio with bassist Roy Babbington and drummer Mike Smith and made this debut CD.
The album impressed me right from the start, which is a bang rather than a whimper. As a devotee of two-fisted pianists like Oscar Peterson, I love the power and swing that Geoff and his trio injected into the opening number - and several tracks thereafter. Most of the tunes are jazz standards but Eales refreshes them with his own interpretations. For instance, his version of Falling in Love Again is very different from the classic Marlene Dietrich rendition. He treads sensitively through the song, interpolating a quote from Dave Brubeck's It's a Raggy Waltz and swinging with the greatest of ease. Roy Babbington adds a melodic solo and Mike Smith swaps fours with Geoff. Like Someone in Love is equally placid yet swinging. And the oft-performed Autumn Leaves is enlivened with semi-classical passages mixed with an easy bounce.
Three of the tracks use alto-saxist Nigel Hancock and a different bassist and drummer. Two of these items are originals by Geoff Eales. Blues for Shirl is a straightforward blues with an animated bass guitar solo by Ian Thomas, while the title-track is a fierily atmospheric number. The other quartet piece is I Fall in Love too Easily, where Nigel Hancock's alto is heart-rending.
The album ends with Eales alone at the piano playing Some Other Time, a touching performance of a beautiful Leonard Bernstein tune (from the musical On the Town) which shows that Geoff is capable of conveying all kinds of moods. Some of his recent albums have worried me with their less accessible music, consisting mainly of Geoff's own compositions - which can't match the melodiousness of the tunes on this CD. I still think he is at his best playing jazz standards, and this is one of his finest albums.